Election boards approved, Fono breaks for 2 weeks

The Fono is taking a two week recess after today’s session to await the submission of the Fiscal Year 2021 budget.

Both the House and Senate approved concurrent resolutions yesterday authorizing the recess.

Lawmakers will reconvene on August 24.

The Senate has confirmed members to the Board of Voter Registration and Campaign Spending Commission.

Campaign Spending Commission appointees are Vaagi Maria Tipeni Vaifanua, Susana Tau and Fagaoatua Dorian Salave’a.

The Board of Voter Registration appointees are Siutu Savusa and Silila Patane.

Confirmation of these election boards require only Senate approval.

One of the bills that the Senate has approved during this session and forwarded to the House for review authorizes pleas in abeyance.

The bill allows the prosecution and defense in criminal cases to agree to, and the court to approve, a defendant’s plea in abeyance and place the defendant on probation whereby at the end of which, the court may reduce the charge the defendant pleads guilty to or dismiss the original charge.

The preamble of the bill states that no one is perfect and despite having paid one’s debt to society, a criminal conviction will follow a defendant everywhere they go.

A criminal conviction will also make it difficult to find a job, apply for college, and even restrict a person from joining the military.

After a person has served their sentence, he or she deserves a second chance to earn a living and take care of their family or attend college, states the bill.

It defines a plea in abeyance as an order by a court upon motion of the prosecution and the defendant, accepting a plea of guilty or of no contest from the defendant, but not at the time entering judgement of conviction against the defendant nor imposing a sentence on condition that the defendant complies with specific conditions as set forth in a plea in abeyance agreement.

The bill provides that at any time after acceptance of a plea of guilty or no contest but before entry of judgement of conviction and sentencing, the court may, upon motion of both the prosecution and defense, hold the plea in abeyance and not enter judgement of conviction against the defendant nor impose sentence within the time period contained in local rules.

A plea may not be held in abeyance for a period longer than 18 months if the plea was to any class of misdemeanor or longer than three years, if the plea was to any degree of felony or to any combination of misdemeanors and felonies.

Upon finding that the defendant has successfully completed the terms of the abeyance agreement the court may reduce the degree of the offense and order a sentence for a lower degree of offense or allow withdrawal of the defendant’s plea and order dismissal of the case.

However no plea may be held in abeyance in any case involving a sexual offense against a victim under the age of 14 or in any case involving a drinking under the influence violation.

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